Running Under Pressure: Lufthansa Announces “Random Medical Checks”

The unexpected can happen? Sure it can. Now Lufthansa is considering random medical checks for pilots, to help prevent any future disaster like the Germanwings crash that killed 150 people.

In a recent interview with a german newspaper, Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr announced medical checks for pilots could be introduced, which in terms of the surprise factor would be similar to doping tests for sports men and women.

It is suspected that Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot deliberately crashed a plane in the Alps in March. Until today its unclear why he did so.
Andreas Lubitz, 27, is thought to have suffered some sort of mental breakdown. Prosecutors in Duesseldorf found evidence of “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment”. They found torn-up sick notes at his home.

Germanwings is a budget airline managed by Lufthansa.

He said that in certain cases a doctor might have to be released from the duty of confidentiality, to reveal concerns about a pilot. Random checks might for example detect a drug that the pilot had concealed from his or her employer.

Since the disaster Lufthansa and other airlines have ruled that there must always be at least two people in the cockpit.

It is interesting to know what selection criteria would be applied for these “ramdon medical checks”.

Air accident investigators have staged a test flight to reconstruct conditions on board the Germanwings Airbus A320 which disintegrated on a mountainside in the French Alps after being put into a controlled dive.

The German tabloid Bild says experts flew an identical plane, which took off from Hamburg and returned there after flying in German airspace. It took place on 12 May, a spokesman for Germany’s crash investigation authority BFU said.

French investigators say they hope the reconstruction will help them analyse sounds recorded in the cockpit of Flight 4U 9525. The flight copied the various altitudes, speeds, the cockpit door locking mechanism and pilots’ breathing noises.

Capt. Ivan

AUTOMATION: Do We Really Need Someone in the Cockpit?

The recent Germanwings disaster has once again reminded us that human pilots are not always failsafe. One only has to look back as far as 2012 to find examples of unruly pilots being subdued by passengers, and of course 9/11 highlighted the extremes of hijacking. With such incidents, the question is inevitably raised as to whether it is feasible or desirable to have commercial flights that do not require a human pilot.

Mary - Missy - Cummings is the Director of Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University.  She was a Navy Officer and military pilot from 1988-1999, one of US Navy first female fighter pilots.  She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials.  Alexander Simpson is a postdoctoral associate at Duke University working in the Humans and Autonomy Lab.

Mary – Missy – Cummings is the Director of Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University. She was a Navy Officer and military pilot from 1988-1999, one of US Navy first female fighter pilots. She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials. Alexander Simpson is a postdoctoral associate at Duke University working in the Humans and Autonomy Lab.

With the development of new automated technologies, the workload in the cockpit has been dramatically decreasing – so much so that pilots self-report only touching the controls for about three to seven minutes during a typical flight. In fact, there exists a standard approach category (CAT III) in which the pilot does not touch the flight controls during approach and landing. This category most commonly exists during severe weather (e.g., heavy fog), which creates the most difficult conditions for approach and landing. If left to human pilots with physiologic limits to vision and reaction times, these landings could not happen.

And while there are cases of heroic pilots saving aircraft in emergency situations (most notably the US Airways Hudson River landing in 2009), human pilot error is responsible for 80 percent of all accidents in military and commercial flights.

Given the central role human error plays in most aircraft accidents, and the fact that intentional malicious acts like those in the Germanwings incident are possible, it is relevant to ask what can be done in terms of automation to improve safety, as well as to reduce costs.

Many airlines and government organizations, including NASA, have already been investigating reducing the number of pilots on a standard commercial flight from two to one. World-fleet-wide, over a 20-year service life of an aircraft, this move has possible savings of $6.8 trillion.

From a technical standpoint, even current commercial aircraft are able to fly themselves through most or all phases of flight. Large drones the size of commercial aircraft routinely fly themselves from takeoff to landing, including conducting emergency landings when equipment fails.
Moving to single-pilot operations (S.P.O.), however, is very different from moving to pilotless aircraft. The idea of having no human pilot in the cockpit to deal with emergencies would likely not sit well with passengers. The concept of “shared fate” comes into play here: People are more comfortable with the idea that pilots in control will try their hardest to save their own lives, and thus save the lives of everyone on board. Given this psychological need, passengers will likely be resistant to the idea of having no pilot on the plane.

There are other reasons to maintain airline staff on board beyond flying the aircraft. Providing services and dealing with unruly passengers are just two of the items that require employees who are seen as a legitimate authority and keep order.

Because of this, what we may see is a transition of roles for the pilot and other staff on board commercial passenger aircraft. Instead of having a dedicated pilot, attendants may be required to be certified as pilots to allow them to both provide services in the cabin and be able to take over for the automation in the case of an emergency. The idea that one or more people on board are able to safely fly and land the aircraft may be enough to encourage acceptance of moving more and more functions to automation.

The shift to pilotless commercial passenger aircraft is not imminent, although commercial cargo does not suffer from the same limitations and will likely become fully automated in a shorter period of time.

The transition to single-pilot operations, however, is likely. Recent technological advancements in automation and the amount of money that could be saved by applying this technology make it a logical choice. The potential savings, coupled with both intentional and unintentional human error, will continue to motivate research and development in support of S.P.O., which will ultimately make for safer and more cost-effective air travel.

By: Mary Cummings and Alexander Stimpson; Former F-18 Pilot, U.S. Navy; Researcher, Duke University Humans and Autonomy Lab.

…..a nightmare.

Tonight I feel anger.

I am in my hotel room in the south of Thailand. I started writing a technical article about the locking mechanism of the cockpit doors and problems we have seen in the past with this security device.

During my commuting flight to Krabi I wrote about statistics and events that involved this door, standard procedures when a pilot leaves the cockpit, etc.

But now……who cares?

I just read on the news that there is a high degree of suspicion that the GermanWings Flight 4U9525 First Officer deliberately locked out of the cockpit to his fellow Captain to later commit suicide crashing the airplane into the French Alps.

There have been other guys in the past that did the same thing.

I just wonder myself. What goes through the head of a human being to execute such a terrible plan? I say “terrible” because honestly I can not find words to define such action.

Poor passengers and crew, useless fighting those final terrible moments to gain access through a door that is specifically designed keep out of the cockpit to anyone. None wants to talk about this, maybe because in our mind we try to deny this nightmare. But is real, is there, it happened.

Our common sense says if you are decided to terminate with your life, go ahead, but do it alone. Not everyone thinks the same.

I hope the industry can find an effective, prompt solution to avoid this to happen again.

I remember tonight a young pilot, many years ago seeing its passengers board his first flight as a Captain. Like on almost every flight there were women, men and children. And some moms holding their babies on their arms. I thought, all these people is under entire responsibility, I must do everything right and try to improve everyday as much as I can.
Since then I have felt through the years the personal satisfaction of every completed flight.

How can be possible? I wish it were just a bad dream…

I must fly tomorrow. Good nite.

Capt. Ivan.

NASA – Large Commercial Jets, Single Pilot Operation Research.

This subject has been overflying for a while. In the era of automation, the airlines are specially concerned about the lack of experienced pilots. Now, in an effort to solve the problem, NASA is looking into whether single pilots can fly large commercial jets so that the shortage of trained airline pilots can be resolved.

The study is conducted by NASA and Rockwell Collins Inc. – a major defence contractor specialising in avionics for jet aircraft – it will focus if co-pilots can assist pilots from the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All large commercial jets are now flown by a two-man flightcrew.

The study will include simulations, determining where technology can teplace human intervetion and even realize real-time flight trials.

The team will analyse changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible by at least 2030.

The topic of reducing the size of cockpit crews for big cargo or passenger planes has been discussed for several years.

The NASA initiative is significant because it raises the concept’s profile, and signals that NASA officials are convinced the general notion is not too far-fetched to merit further research.

The researchers will study if co-pilots on the ground could be assigned to assist solo pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing manoeuvers, or if something goes wrong.

NASA awarded the $4 million, four-year contract to Rockwell earlier this year for the study.

Capt. Ivan

Drones – An Rising Threat

With the increased, unregulated, drone activity we are coming up to the point that is not about “how”, is about “when” an accident will happen.

image

This year, there was a near-miss with an unidentified drone when it came close to hit an Airbus 320 at Heathrow airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has confirmed.
The Airbus A320 pilot reported seeing a helicopter-style drone at 700 feet AGL during its approach to the runway at 1416 GMT on 22 July.

The CAA has not disclosed the airline or how close the drone came to the aircraft.
The CAA has given the incident an “A” rating, meaning a “serious risk of collision”.
Investigators were unable to identify the drone, which did not appear on air traffic control radar and disappeared after the encounter.

In another incident, on May, the pilot of an ATR 72 reported seeing a helicopter drone only 80 feet away as he approached Southend airport at a height of 1,500 feet.
These incidents have prompted a warning from the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) that the rapid increase in the number of drones operated by amateur enthusiasts now poses “a real risk” to commercial aircraft.

The association’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan said; “The risk of a 10 kilogram object hitting a plane is a real one that pilots are very concerned about”.
“A small drone could be a risky distraction for a pilot coming into land and cause serious damage if they hit one.”

Sales of drones have increased rapidly, with UK sales running at a rate of between 1,000 and 2,000 every month.

They are expected to be very popular as Christmas presents.

They cost as little as £35 for a smaller model – more advanced drones capable of carrying a high definition camera and travelling at 45 miles per hour cost almost £3,000.
Only a very small minority of people operating drones have attended training courses in how to fly them.

A spokesman for the CAA said it had to depend on people using their common sense when they operated drones.

He said the current level of risk should be “kept in perspective” but warned that breaking laws governing the use of drones could potentially threaten commercial aircraft.
“People using unmanned aircraft need to think, use common sense and take responsibility for them”, he said.

“There are rules which have the force of law and have to be followed.”

Drones may not be flown higher than 400 feet or further than 500 metres from the operator, and they must not go within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings.

There are exclusion zones around airports and the approaches to them for drones weighing more than seven kilograms.

Mr McAuslan said there was an urgent need for rules to be tightened before much larger unmanned cargo planes – potentially the size of a Boeing 737 – took to the skies.

Capt. Ivan

Eastern Airlines Re-launch: Now looking for Flight Attendants.

The relaunch of the once a legend Eastern Air Lines is approaching and is planned early next year, now is on the lookout for flight attendants.

The Miami-based airline will hold a recruiting session the weekend of Nov. 22. Those interested in applying must first fill out a form online, which can be found here.

Applicants must be at least 21; have a high school diploma or equivalent; be able to swim without assistance; speak, read and understand English and Spanish and have a valid passport or equivalent travel documents.

Eastern, which will initially operate as a charter airline, is awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline said it plans to start operating in early 2015 with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Eastern Air Lines was one of the “Big Four” airlines (along with United, Delta and American that dominated the passenger airline business in the United States for nearly 50 years. It started flying officially as Eastern from 1930 (after its predecessor company was founded in 1927) and operated until 1991, when it ceased operations during the first Gulf War.

Capt. Ivan

ICAO Joint Statement on Ebola Virus Disease

18 August 2014 – The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. This outbreak now involves community transmission in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and recently an ill traveler from Liberia infected a small number of people in Nigeria with whom he had direct contact. On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

The risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel is low. Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not spread by breathing air (and the airborne particles it contains) from an infected person. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler. Travelers are, in any event, advised to avoid all such contacts and routinely practice careful hygiene, like hand washing.

The risk of getting infected on an aircraft is also small as sick persons usually feel so unwell that they cannot travel and infection requires direct contact with the body fluids of the infected person. Most infections in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, are taking place in the community when family members or friends take care of someone who is ill or when funeral preparation and burial ceremonies do not follow strict infection prevention and control measures.

A second important place where transmission can occur is in clinics and other health care settings, when health care workers, patients, and other persons have unprotected contact with a person who is infected. In Nigeria, cases are related only to persons who had direct contact with a single traveler who was hospitalized upon arrival in Lagos.
It is important to note that a person who is infected is only able to spread the virus to others after the infected person has started to have symptoms. A person usually has no symptoms for two to 21 days (the “incubation period”). Symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and in some cases, bleeding.

The risk of a traveler becoming infected with the Ebola virus during a visit to the affected countries and developing disease after returning is very low, even if the visit includes travel to areas in which cases have been reported.

If a person, including a traveler, stayed in the areas where Ebola cases have been recently reported, he/she should seek medical attention at the first sign of illness (fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, red eyes, and in some cases, bleeding). Early treatment can improve prognosis.
Strengthened international cooperation is needed, and should support action to contain the virus, stop transmission to other countries and mitigate the effects in those affected.

Affected countries are requested to conduct exit screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings, for unexplained febrile illness consistent with potential Ebola infection. Any person with an illness consistent with EVD should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation. There should be no international travel of Ebola contacts or cases, unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation.

Non-affected countries need to strengthen the capacity to detect and immediately contain new cases, while avoiding measures that will create unnecessary interference with international travel or trade. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend any ban on international travel or trade, in accordance with advice from the WHO Ebola
Emergency Committee.

Travel restrictions and active screening of passengers on arrival at sea ports, airports or ground crossings in non-affected countries that do not share borders with affected countries are not currently recommended by WHO.
Worldwide, countries should provide their citizens traveling to Ebola-affected countries with accurate and relevant information on the Ebola outbreak and measures to reduce the risk of exposure.

Useful links:
WHO Advice for travelers

Source:  ICAO

 

Migrate to Asia? Boeing Projects Asia-Pacific Region To Lead the Need to Pilots and Technicians

Boeing projects the Asia Pacific region’s demand for new commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians over the next 20 years will be 39 percent of the global need for new airline personnel.

The manufacturer projects a requirement for 216,000 new commercial airline pilots and 224,000 new technicians in the Asia Pacific region through 2033. That regional demand is forecasted to be more than North America and Europe combined.

“The Asia Pacific region is seeing tremendous economic growth and is set to become the largest air travel market in the world,” said Bob Bellitto, director, Customer Group, Boeing Flight Services. “That growth rate means booming career opportunities for those interested in becoming commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians over the next two decades. These are strong, stable and challenging jobs in one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world.”

Leading the region in projected demand for new pilots and technicians:

• China – 98,000 pilots and 101,000 technicians
• Southeast Asia – 55,000 pilots and 55,000 technicians

Other parts of the region will also continue to see long-term demand in the tens of thousands of pilots and technicians:

• South Asia will need 33,000 pilots and 30,000 technicians
• Northeast Asia will need 17,000 pilots and 24,000 technicians
• The Oceania region will need 13,000 pilots and 14,000 technicians

As with personnel demand, the Asia Pacific region also leads the demand for new commercial airplane deliveries over the next 20 years, with 13,460 new airplanes needed by 2033 according to Boeing’s 2014 Current Market Outlook.

FAA Bans US Based Carriers to Stop Flying over Syria

The FAA – Federal Aviation Administration, has ordered airlines based in the United States to stop flying over Syria, citing a “serious potential threat” to civil planes.

The FAA ordered last Monday to all airlines based in the United States to stop flying over Syria, citing a “serious potential threat” to civil planes, including armed groups with anti-aircraft weapons.

“Based on an updated assessment of the risk associated with such operations and the lack of any requests from operators wishing to fly in this airspace, we believe it prudent to prohibit US operators from flying into, out of and over Syria,” the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement. The FAA’s previous so-called Notice to Airmen had strongly advised US operators against flying over Syria.

“The ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment in Syria poses a serious potential threat to civil aviation,” the new notice said. “Armed extremist groups in Syria are known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft.” It noted that opposition groups have already shot down Syrian military aircraft over the conflict that began nearly three and a half years ago.

The ban affects all US companies and commercial operators. The FAA has also imposed a ban on US planes over Iraq, effective Aug 8.

Syria, like Iraq, is on a path that carriers can take when traveling between Europe and the Middle East or Asia.

Source:  AFP

Airline Pilots – A Tribute..

Those first young men, the pioneers, the aviators building super highways in an unknown sky. Leaving wives and children in their snug homes, with just a kiss and a promise to return.

Roaring into the clouds to battle wind and stars.

Their safety systems built of brain and heart.  They landed where there were no lights.

Transforming strange names from tall tales into pictures on postcards home. And those next young men, travelling further, faster, higher than any in history and the ones who followed them, who skimmed the edge of space, the edge of heaven, the edge of dreams.

And we follow them up there to live by an unbreakable promise. The same four words stitched into every uniform of every captain who takes their command.

To Fly. To Serve.

  •   GDL 39